Reflective On-Line Discourse for Pre-Service Teachers

Reflective On-Line Discourse for Pre-Service Teachers

E. Gregory Holdan (Robert Morris University, USA) and Mary Hansen (Robert Morris University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-150-8.ch005
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More and more, evidence suggests that the competent teacher is one who, through reflective practices, becomes thoughtful, clear in beliefs and actions based on these beliefs, and self-initiating (Wasserman, 2009). However, because the teaching profession is sometimes one of isolation and disconnectedness (Sparks & Hirsh, 1997; Wong & Wong, 2001; Zmuda, Kuklis & Kline, 2004), teachers may not get opportunities to engage in thoughtful discourse. With advances in on-line education, however, teachers who might otherwise not have opportunities to engage in meaningful, reflective discourse about teaching and learning can easily do so at their own relative convenience. Through an on-line venue, teachers can get involved in substantive communication about teaching and learning, address valid and invalid preconceptions about the profession, and work to improve their practice through directed meta-cognitive reflective activities.
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Reflective practice for the classroom teacher has been conceptualized in many different ways: reviewing and thinking about one’s teaching (Stronge, 2002); reviewing an experience to identify accurate and inaccurate perceptions (Marzano, 2007); thinking about teaching before, during, and after a lesson (Artzt, Armour-Thomas & Curcio, 2008); sophisticated thoughtful consideration of instructional intentions and the degree to which those intentions have been accomplished (Danielson & McGreal, 2000); a cycle of inquiry to foster building new understanding of self and teaching practice (Lambert, 1998); a mental activity where an experience is recalled, thoughtfully considered, and then evaluated, usually with some overarching purpose in mind (Richards, 1991); or a critical thinking skill that involves analyzing and making judgments about what happened (McDonald & Dominguez, 2009). Overarching purposes might be to improve instruction and influence student learning (Stronge, 2002); to uncover beliefs, as well as accurate and inaccurate perceptions about teaching and student learning (Marzano, 2007); to analyze personal teaching practices and cognitions that drive each and every lesson (Artzt et al., 2008); to build a strong sense of self-efficacy (Stronge, 2002); to develop critical stances and deliberate teacher practice on sound principles (Ostorga & Estrada, 2009); to change classrooms from teacher-centered to student centered (Stump, 2010); or to build a deeper understanding that the consequences of teacher actions can build an expanded repertoire of teaching skills (Danielson, 1998).

Reflective thought requires more than just recounting events, though. High-level reflection must also consider the “why’s” associated with those events. Simply put, for example, recounting the sequence of events of a particularly good lesson is not reflective thinking at a comprehensive level. The teacher must thoughtfully consider why that particular lesson may have been so successful. It is believed that reflective thinking by the effective teacher acts as a learning tool for the teacher and builds confidence in teaching. Indeed, reflective thinking about one’s teaching can transform an ordinary classroom into a much more productive one (Stronge, 2002). It is important, therefore, to keep in mind that not all thought is reflective thought (Ostorga & Estrada, 2009), and in order be considered high quality reflection, student discourse must be focused and must move away from superficial descriptions.

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